CAA’s co-head of film finance and sales Micah Green was talked into going to the first Los Cabos Film Festival in Cabo San Lucas three years ago mostly as favor for an actor client who was working with the founders to try to make sure the first edition had a decent turnout.
Though Cabo is still recovering from the big hurricane Odile, with scaffolding everywhere and several major resorts still undergoing repairs, the festival continuing full-steam ahead with the hopeful hashtag #unstoppable much in evidence.Three years later, he’s such a convert that he’s brought a delegation of about 30 assorted agents, producers and financiers to the five-day long festival based in the Mexican resort town.
Discovering or meeting with the talent showcased at screenings of some 40 features is one major part of why Green is here; the other is his belief that it’s the ideal place to grow an industry event that’s as focused on high-level finance meetings as it is on gala screenings and parties.
“I became a complete believer in what could be created here,” says Green. With an easy direct flight from Los Angeles and hundreds of hotels at every price level, the beachside location has the infrastructure to handle a major event.
Festivals are focused on launching premieres for the press and public while markets are mainly about film sales. But how do those films get made in the first place? Green says the third thing that’s increasingly important is the interplay between financiers, producers and agents that often gets done over drinks in a festival setting — preferably with palm trees and an sea view. “It’s emerged as a fantastic addition to the landscape,” he says.
Execs also have the chance to work with up-and-coming actors and filmmakers while mingling at screenings and parties. At last year’s fest, “Miss Bala” director Gerardo Naranjo’s first English-language film was packaged with Dakota Fanning attached to star. Among the Hollywood contingent here this year are Basil Iwanyk and Trent Luckinbill and Thad Luckinbill, partners at Molly Smith’s Black Label, who are teaming on Mexico-set “Sicario” directed by Denis Villeneuve; “Lone Survivor” producer Spencer Silna and CAA co-head of film finance and sales Roeg Sutherland.
Festival head Alonso Aguilar says making successful deals starts from a human approach. When he became director, the fest remodeled the competition to focus on the North American triumvirate of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico. “It allows us to have a place in the international arena,” says Aguilar. And while American agents do business at high-end resorts, international producers along with 12 heads of national film funds are doing “speed dating” meetings which already have a strong track record, with three of the co-productions seeded last year ready to be announced at Cannes a few months later.
“We want to sharpen the industry tools,” he says.
It’s a very serious festival, says Green, with “really strong, informed cinematic programming.” Buyers are here too, including Magnolia, Goldwyn, Ray Strache of Fox Searchlight and sales companies like FilmNation and IM Global, along with reps from the other major talent agencies.
They’re looking not just for films to acquire, but to make contacts with talent, because while foreign language film is a small niche in the U.S., foreign directors are can be much bigger business.